YW FACES campaign launches Friday


YWCA press release – The community is invited to the launch of YW FACES, a campaign made in partnership between the YWCA Niagara Region and local image-maker Michal Pasco.

For the past year, Michal has been taking portraits of people who were staying in the YW’s emergency shelters, and in some cases, people who were living in the streets.

On June 7/2019, those images are going to come to life on the wall between Tim Hortons and East on King Street as part of the In The Soil Arts Festival. The photos, mixed with messages, stats and facts will come together in a video, which will be accompanied by the sound of the Laura Secord Secondary School jazz choir singing live.

“I’ve seen homelessness firsthand in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Europe, Los Angeles and on the surface it all seems the same,” says the artist behind the campaign, Michal Pasco. “However, it wasn’t until about four years ago, when I volunteered at a local fundraising event with the YWCA Niagara Region that I realized the extent of homelessness in Niagara and how much of it is actually hidden.”

Michal decided that he wanted to do his part in bringing people who are often forgotten or overlooked to the centre of people’s attention.

“The irony is that they’re not hidden at all. We see them on a daily basis but in most cases, we’re just not aware. They have jobs, go to your kids’ school or even your church, but at the end of the day, they have no home to go to. Many are staying in shelters, a vehicle, or for others, even the streets.”

When he first thought of the concept of YW FACES, he approached both the City and the YWCA Niagara Region to see if the campaign would get support. Mayor Walter Sendzik and his staff at the City thought it was a great campaign and have been supportive of the idea every step of the way. The YW, too, wanted to be part of this unique project.

“We loved the idea when Michal first approached us,” explains Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region. “What was important to us was that these images would be as real as possible. We try to tell people that homelessness has many faces and often is not what you would expect. To have the chance to tell that story by way of sharing these powerful images with the community is incredibly special for us and for the people we serve.”

YW FACES would not have been possible if it had not been for the many volunteers who were open to having their picture taken, and in some cases even sharing some of their stories in writing or on video.

“It took courage for each of every one of them,” says Zimmermann. “Many of the volunteers said that they were done hiding and that they found it empowering to ask people to think twice before they judge someone. It was encouraging for us to get that feedback from our guests and clients and we are so grateful that they chose to support this campaign.”

PenFinancial is supporting YW FACES as the Presenting Sponsor and Bosch Rexroth as the Powered By Sponsor. Both companies felt like this was an important project to support. Many people donated their time and skill to help make YW FACES a success. The YWCA also sends out a special ‘thank you’ to the In The Soil organizers who gave the YW the opportunity to launch the campaign as part of their festival.

After the launch, some of the portraits will be exhibited at Mahtay Café in St. Catharines, starting June 8/2019.